Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Squirrels becoming more visible on S. Jersey beaches

Just when vigilant beachgoers were getting used to food-swiping seagulls and loud conch shells here comes a new scavenger that is establishing a presence along New Jersey's waterfront. Squirrels have begun to migrate to the barrier island's sand in search of small bits of food and beach glass.

"It's global warming. It's all global warming. They're becoming confused. I saw one squirrel run right into the ocean. Don't know what happened to the little guy," said Ursinus College biology professor, Dr Tammy Belvedere.

Squirrels, normally tree dwellers, have taken to burrowing 8 feet deep holes in the sand to protect themselves against predators. The greatest threat to the bushy tailed "rodents" are kites and horseshoe crabs.

For the most part seagulls and squirrels have coexisted on the beaches in New Jersey. However, there was one reported incident in Strathmere, the town just south of Ocean City, last week.

Several aggressive gulls were flying low, picking up the squirrels and dropping them 30 yards off the shore into the water.

"It was freaking sweet. I was getting the catamaran ready when 'Operation Relocate Squirrel' began," said Josh Tipton, of Brick, NJ.

Experts feel the rodents may be here to stay and not because food is abundant(during the summer months).

"The little creatures have become fascinated with the tides. They'll sit and watch the tide go out. They appear more interested when the tide is going out," said Belvedere.

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